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Youngsters count cost of Devon youth service cuts

PUBLISHED: 07:30 10 February 2014

Alfie Weaver (mid left) with his campaign comrades Luke Bourne, Chris Moore and Lewis Williamson at Sidmouth Youth Centre

Alfie Weaver (mid left) with his campaign comrades Luke Bourne, Chris Moore and Lewis Williamson at Sidmouth Youth Centre

Archant

Youngsters in Sidmouth are calculating the cost as a planned £1million budget cut leaves the future of youth centres uncertain.

Devon County Council (DCC) needs to slash £110million from its budget over three years – but cash is not enough to save the service and bosses want community groups to take over its provision.

Teenage activists have begun petitioning councillors and campaigning to save the centres – to protect those who cannot speak out for themselves.

Alfie Weaver, a volunteer at Sidmouth Youth Centre, said: “By cutting resources, DCC is failing to make sure it helps the most vulnerable people in society.

“Many youth centres will cease to exist, and Sidmouth’s is very likely to be among them. People may moan about it, but when it’s gone, where will the young people go?”

Plans to ‘rationalise’ the youth service were accidentally released by DCC last Thursday and reported by the Herald.

DCC is following the national policy of targeting youth services on those in greatest need, which government inspectors Ofsted identified as the authority’s ‘inadequate’ child safeguarding.

Councillor Claire Wright said: “It’s a massive challenge and I do sympathise, but there are other areas where cuts could be made.”

She said other agencies could take it over, but they may not be able to offer the same level of expertise and experience that the youth workers can.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Sidmouth’s representative at DCC, said: “The future provision for youth is a community service, not purely a DCC issue.

“We need lots of other partners to come to the party and if we can enable them to take on the assets, so much the better.”

The council began its second stage of consultation on Monday, which runs until April – although the budget is set to be rubber-stamped later this month.

A DCC spokesman said the authority will continue to offer specialist services such as drug and alcohol advice.

“Where the council is hoping to engage with the local community, is in the taking on and running of the traditional youth-centre based activities that are currently attended by any young person, while the council then is able to focus its resources on targeting support to vulnerable young people,” he added.

A petition against the cuts attracted more than 200 signatures in 24 hours.

To support it, contact Sidmouth Youth Centre on 01395 578852.

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